Number of the beast
The number of the beast (Greek: Ἀριθμὸς τοῦ θηρίου, Arithmos tou Thēriou) is associated with the Beast of Revelation in chapter 13, verse 18 of Book of Revelation. In most manuscripts of the New Testament and in English translations of the Bible, the number of the beast is six hundred and sixty-six or χξϛ (in Greek numerals, χ represents 600, ξ represents 60 and ϛ represents 6). Papyrus 115 (which is the oldest preserved manuscript of the Revelation as of 2017[update]), as well as other ancient sources like Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, give the number of the beast as χιϛ or χιϲ (transliterable in Arabic numerals as 616) (χιϛ), not 666; critical editions of the Greek text, such as the Novum Testamentum Graece, note 616 as a variant.
In the Bible
The number of the beast is described in Revelation 13:15–18. Several translations have been interpreted for the meaning of the phrase "Here is Wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast..." where the peculiar Greek word ψηφισάτω (psephisato) is used. Possible translations include "to count", "to reckon" and also "to vote" or "to decide".
In the Textus Receptus, derived from Byzantine text-type manuscripts, the number six hundred sixty-six is represented by the Greek numerals χξϛ, with the Greek letter stigma (ϛ) representing the number 6:
17καὶ ἵνα μή τις δύνηται ἀγοράσαι ἢ πωλῆσαι εἰ μὴ ὁ ἔχων τὸ χάραγμα, τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θηρίου ἢ τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ. 18Ὧδε ἡ σοφία ἐστίν· ὁ ἔχων τὸν νοῦν ψηφισάτω τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ θηρίου· ἀριθμὸς γὰρ ἀνθρώπου ἐστί· καὶ ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτοῦ χξϛʹ.
English: "17And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is 666."
17καὶ ἵνα μή τις δύνηται ἀγοράσαι ἢ πωλῆσαι εἰ μὴ ὁ ἔχων τὸ χάραγμα, τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ θηρίου ἢ τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ ὀνόματος αὐτοῦ. 18Ὧδε ἡ σοφία ἐστίν· ὁ ἔχων νοῦν ψηφισάτω τὸν ἀριθμὸν τοῦ θηρίου, ἀριθμὸς γὰρ ἀνθρώπου ἐστίν· καὶ ὁ ἀριθμὸς αὐτοῦ ἑξακόσιοι ἑξήκοντα ἕξ.
English: "17And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name. 18Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast: for it is the number of a man; and his number is six hundred and sixty-six."
Although Irenaeus (2nd century AD) affirmed the number to be 666 and reported several scribal errors of the number, theologians have doubts about the traditional reading because of the appearance of the figure 616 in the Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus (C; Paris—one of the four great uncial codices), as well as in the Latin version of Tyconius (DCXVI, ed. Souter in the Journal of Theology, SE, April 1913), and in an ancient Armenian version (ed. Conybeare, 1907). Irenaeus knew about the 616 reading, but did not adopt it (Haer. V, 30). In the 380s, correcting the existing Latin-language version of the New Testament (commonly referred to as the Vetus Latina), Jerome retained "666".
Around 2005, a fragment from Papyrus 115, taken from the Oxyrhynchus site, was discovered at the Oxford University's Ashmolean Museum. It gave the beast's number as 616 (χις). This fragment is the oldest manuscript (about 1,700 years old) of Revelation 13 found as of 2017[update]. Codex Ephraemi Rescriptus, known before the Papyrus 115 finding but dating to after it, has 616 written in full: ἑξακόσιοι δέκα ἕξ, hexakosioi deka hex (lit. "six hundred and sixteen").
Papyrus 115 and Ephraemi Rescriptus have led some scholars to regard 616 as the original number of the beast. According to Paul Louis, "The number 666 has been substituted for 616 either by analogy with 888, the [Greek] number of Jesus (Gustav Adolf Deissmann), or because it is a triangular number, the sum of the first 36 numbers (1+2+3+4+5+6+...+36 = 666)"
The beast's identity and the beast's number are usually interpreted by applying one of three methods:
- Using gematria to find the numbers that equate to the names of world leaders, to check for a match with the scriptural number.
- Treating the number of the beast as a duration of time.
- Linking the scriptural imagery and symbolism of the Antichrist with characteristics of world leaders who oppose Christianity.
Identification by gematria
In Greek isopsephy and Hebrew gematria, every letter has a corresponding numeric value. Summing these numbers gives a numeric value to a word or name. The use of isopsephy to calculate "the number of the beast" is used in many of the below interpretations.
Preterist theologians typically support the interpretation that 666 is the numerical equivalent of the name and title Nero Caesar (Roman Emperor 54–68 AD). Written in Aramaic, this can be valued at 666 using the Hebrew numerology of gematria, and was used to secretly speak against the emperor. Additionally, "Nero Caesar" in the Hebrew alphabet is נרון קסר NRON QSR, which when interpreted numerically represents the numbers 50 200 6 50 100 60 200, which add up to 666.
The Greek term χάραγμα (charagma, "mark" in Revelation 13:16) was most commonly used for imprints on documents or coins. Charagma is well attested to have been an imperial seal of the Roman Empire used on official documents during the 1st and 2nd centuries. In the reign of Emperor Decius (249–251 AD), those who did not possess the certificate of sacrifice (libellus) to Caesar could not pursue trades, a prohibition that conceivably goes back to Nero, reminding one of Revelation 13:17.
Preterists argue that Revelation was written before the destruction of the Temple, with Nero exiling John to Patmos. Most scholars, however, argue it was written after Nero committed suicide in AD 68. The Catholic Encyclopedia has noted that Revelation was "written during the latter part of the reign of the Roman Emperor Domitian, probably in A.D. 95 or 96".
Additional Protestant scholars are in agreement. Because some believe Revelation 13 speaks of a future prophetic event, "All who dwell on the earth will worship him, whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." (Revelation 13:8 NKJV), some have argued that the interpretation of Nero meeting the fulfillment is an impossibility if Revelation was written around 30 years after the death of Nero. However, rumors circulated that Nero had not really died and would return to power.
It has also been suggested that the numerical reference to Nero was a code to imply but not directly identify emperor Domitian, whose style of rulership resembled that of Nero and who put the people of Asia (Lydia), whom the Book of Revelation was primarily addressed to at the time, under heavy taxation. The popular Nero Redivivus legend stating that Nero would return to life can also be noted; "After Nero's suicide in AD 68, there was a widespread belief, especially in the eastern provinces, that he was not dead and somehow would return (Suetonius, LVII; Tacitus, Histories II.8; Dio, LXVI.19.3). Suetonius (XL) relates how court astrologers had predicted Nero's fall but that he would have power in the east. And, indeed, at least three false claimants did present themselves as Nero redivivus (resurrected).
An Aramaic scroll from Wadi Murabba'at, dated to "the second year of Emperor Nero", refers to him by his name and title. In Hebrew it is Nron Qsr (pronounced "Nerōn Kaisar"). In Latin it is Nro Qsr (pronounced "Nerō Kaisar").
- Nron Qsr
|Resh (ר)||Samekh (ס)||Qoph (ק)||Nun (נ)||Vav (ו)||Resh (ר)||Nun (נ)||Sum|
- Nro Qsr
|Resh (ר)||Samekh (ס)||Qoph (ק)||Vav (ו)||Resh (ר)||Nun (נ)||Sum|
Gematria has also been used with the word Maometis (Ancient Greek: Μαομέτις); which scholars[who?] have described as a dubiously obscure Latinisation of a Greek transliteration of the Arabic name محمد (Muhammad). Kenneth Setton wrote that Muhammad was frequently defamed and made a subject of legends taught by preachers as fact. For example, in order to show that Muhammad was the anti-Christ, it was asserted that Muhammad died not in the year 632 but in the year 666. In another variation on the theme the number "666" was also used to represent the period of time Muslims would hold sway of the land. In Quia maior, the encyclical calling for the Fifth Crusade, Euthymius Zygabenus and Zonaras wrote the name as "Maometh" and Cedrenus wrote the name "Mouchoumet" none of which is the "Maometis" in question. A leading exponent of the Maometis interpretation was Charles Walmesley, the Roman Catholic bishop of Rama. Other proponents include 16–17th century Catholic theologians Gilbert Genebrard, Francois Feuardent, and Rene Massuet. Maometis in Greek numerals totals 666:
In the 1923 book The Number And Names of the Apocalyptic Beasts, David Thom rejects "Maometis" as a valid translation, observing that "of the seven different ways in which Muhammad’s name is written in Euthymius and the Byzantine historians, not one is the orthography in question". None of the given spellings add up to 666 under Greek gematria.
Mark of the beast
A common preterist view of the Mark of the beast (focusing on the past) is the stamped image of the emperor's head on every coin of the Roman Empire: the stamp on the hand or in the mind of all, without which no one could buy or sell. New Testament scholar Craig C. Hill noted, "It is far more probable that the mark symbolizes the all-embracing economic power of Rome, whose very coinage bore the emperor's image and conveyed his claims to divinity (e.g., by including the sun's rays in the ruler's portrait). It had become increasingly difficult for Christians to function in a world in which public life, including the economic life of the trade guilds, required participation in idolatry."
A similar view is offered by Craig R. Koester. "As sales were made, people used coins that bore the images of Rome's gods and emperors. Thus each transaction that used such coins was a reminder that people were advancing themselves economically by relying on political powers that did not recognize the true God."
In 66, when Nero was emperor—about the time some scholars say Revelation was written—the Jews revolted against Rome and coined their own money.
The passage is also seen as an antithetical parallelism to the Jewish institution of tefillin—Hebrew Bible texts worn bound to the arm and the forehead during daily prayer. Instead of binding their allegiance to God to their arm and head, the place is instead taken with people's allegiance to the beast.
The idealist perspective on the number of the beast rejects gematria, envisioning the number not as a code to be broken, but a symbol to be understood. Idealists would contend that because there are so many names that can come to 666 and that most systems require converting names to other languages or adding titles when convenient, it has been impossible to come to a consensus. Given that numbers are used figuratively throughout the book of Revelation, idealists interpret this number figuratively as well. The common suggestion is that because seven is a number of completeness and is associated with the divine, that six is incomplete and the three sixes are "inherently incomplete". The number is therefore suggestive that the Dragon and his beasts are completely inadequate. Other scholars focus not on incompleteness but on the beast's ability to imitate perfection, that is, to appear authentic. Since the number six is one short of the perfect number seven, the beast's number bears "most of the hallmarks of truth, and so it can easily deceive". Another suggestion is that this number represents an individual's incomplete or immature spiritual state.
A futurist view of the mark of the beast is that the rise of a supranational currency (for example, the euro) could be a hallmark of the End Times and that the mark of the beast will be a sign on the forehead or on the right hand. Futurists (focused on the future) believe that the Revelation addresses primarily the Second Coming of Christ and similar events at the time's end (1:7; 19:11–16; 22:11–12). Although many do find truth in these general assertions, this view does not take into account all historical views. (Ch. 2–5; 12:5–16).
Religious difficulties with a world currency currently exist. According to the futurist view, to overcome the extant difficulties the Antichrist will use forced religious syncretism (i.e. amalgamations of different religions in the name of counterterrorism and world economic stability) to enable the creation of the currency. Some interpret the mark as a requirement for all commerce to mean that the mark might actually be an object with the function of a credit card, such as RFID microchip implants. In Christianity, some believe the implantation of chips may be the imprinting of the mark of the beast, prophesied to be a requirement for all trade, and a precursor to the events of the second half of the Book of Revelation.
Historicists believe Revelation articulates a full range of the history of the Christian church, from John's day to the Second Coming of Christ. The author alludes to Daniel 2:28 and 45; Daniel's vision (Daniel 2) uses symbols giving a sequence of future events in history, from the Babylonian empire, through Medo-Persian period, Greece and Rome continuing until the end of the current civilization. This apocalyptic volume builds on Daniel's approach focusing on major points of Christian history: the cross of Christ (Rev. 5:6,9,12); the Second Coming (Rev. 14:14–16; 19:11–16); the 1,000 years in heaven (Rev. 20:4–6); the third advent of Christ to earth along with his loyal followers and the destruction of Satan and those who refused Christ (20:7–15); and the creation of a new heavens and a new earth where death, sorrow, and sin cease and God dwells with His people (Rev. 21:1–8, 22–27; 22:1–5). The Book of Daniel is divided into two parts—the historical narrative of the captivity of Judah and the prophecies pointing to both promised Messiah and the events of the end of the world. Attention to the text of Revelation aids the student of Bible prophecy by showing how the Apostle John and Jesus intended us to interpret Bible apocalyptic literature as found in Daniel.
Seventh-day Adventists taking this view believe that the mark of the beast (but not the number 666) refers to a future, universal, legally enforced Sunday-sacredness. "Those who reject God's memorial of creatorship—the Bible Sabbath—choosing to worship and honor Sunday in the full knowledge that it is not God's appointed day of worship, will receive the 'mark of the beast.'" "The Sunday Sabbath is purely a child of the Papacy. It is the mark of the beast."
In the writings of the Bahá'í Faith, 'Abdu'l-Bahá states that the numerical value given to the beast referred to the year when the Umayyad ruler Muawiyah I took office as Caliph in 661 AD. He opposed the Imamate, according to the beliefs of Shia Islam, who continued to pay the tax required of nonbelievers and were excluded from government and the military, and thus bore a social "mark". (See also the scholarly accepted year of birth of Jesus about 666 years before as well as the concept of Mawali who were non-Arab Muslims but not treated as other Muslims.)
Jehovah's Witnesses believe that the beast identified by the number 666 represents the world's unified governments in opposition to God. The beast is said to have "a human number" in that the represented governments are of a human origin rather than spirit entities. The number 666 is said to identify "gross shortcoming and failure in the eyes of Jehovah", in contrast to the number 7, which is seen as symbolizing perfection.
In 2017 Jehovah's Witnesses said some Congolese churches made the claim that a World Wide Web (WWW) address printed on Jehovah's Witness literature is an indication that the literature is demonic, because WWW corresponds with 666.
Fear and superstition
- In 1989, Nancy and Ronald Reagan, when moving to their home in the Bel-Air section of Los Angeles after the 1988 election, had its address—666 St. Cloud Road—changed to 668 St. Cloud Road.
- In 2003, U.S. Route 666 in New Mexico was changed to U.S. Route 491. A New Mexico spokesperson stated, "The devil's out of here, and we say goodbye and good riddance."
- The phobia has been a motif in various horror films such as The Omen and its 2006 remake (released on 6/6/06), and in music albums such as Iron Maiden's The Number of the Beast. The number of the beast also appears in other films such as Pulp Fiction, The Doom Generation, End of Days, Final Destination, Bedazzled, and The Phantom of the Opera.
- Some women expressed concern about giving birth on 6 June 2006 (6/6/06).
- In November 2013, Codie Thacker—a cross-country runner at Whitley County High School in Williamsburg, Kentucky—refused to run in her Kentucky High School Athletic Association regional meet, forfeiting a chance at qualifying for the state championships, when her coach drew bib number 666.
- In 2015, US Representative Joe Barton had the number of a legislative bill he had introduced changed from 666 to 702 because "the original bill number carried many different negative connotations", according to a spokesperson.
- In 2017, church leaders in Papua New Guinea were concerned by newspaper reports that the Governor-General had been requested to sign 666 writs for an upcoming election. They were reassured by the Electoral Commissioner that the number merely reflected 6 copies of each writ for 111 electorates.
- In October 2017, flight AY666 from Copenhagen to Helsinki (HEL) departed for the last time before being renamed to AY954. Since 2006, the flight had been scheduled on a Friday the 13th on 21 occasions. A Finnair spokesperson said that the number has not been renamed due to superstitious passengers.
- 666 (number)
- 666 (Thelema)
- 2300 day prophecy
- Biblical numerology
- Christian eschatology
- Day-year principle
- Fifth Monarchists
- Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
- Prophecy of Seventy Weeks
- The Number of the Beast
- Whore of Babylon
- The Queen's Beasts
- V sign
- Revelation 13:18
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[...] 616 refers to the Emperor Caligula.
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Supporters say changing building numbers isn't such an unusual thing. After all, they say, when President Reagan left office, he and Nancy took up residence at 666 St. Cloud Road in Bel-Air but had the address changed to 668 to avoid the 'number of the beast.'
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